It’s not enough to teach your students academic lessons. With increasing stress from greater society, which kids may be experiencing a foretaste of in your very classroom, it’s all the more important to teach skills crucial in managing emotions properly. This is especially true among younger kids and preschoolers who are still struggling with tantrums, separation anxiety, shyness, and whatnot.
Unfortunately, social-emotional learning takes a backseat when it’s compared to academic instruction. The result? A generation of young students able to answer addition word problems, but unable to handle rejections, self-doubts, criticisms, and failures. Remember that academic success doesn’t come solely from cognitive intelligence, but emotional too.
A Safe Place in the Classroom
One of the best ways you can promote social-emotional learning is making your classroom a safe place for students to know more about themselves. A ‘quiet zone’ can help, for instance. It’s a space where kids can process what they’re feeling — let’s say, when they feel overwhelmed or frustrated with the lesson or uncomfortable being dropped off by mom. The whole idea is to have a dedicated area for keeping emotions in check. Like other areas in your room, you have to explain the functions and rules of using it. This will inevitably determine the impact of the quiet zone on kids.
It’s crucial to be clear that the place isn’t for hanging around or avoiding work in class. Your students should respect it for what it is: a space to calm their feelings. That means remaining quiet, avoiding talking to other children. Tell them how long they can stay in the zone, as well. Five to 10 minutes is often enough of a time to relieve tantrums or anxieties for younger kids when they hold on to comfort objects.
When you still see signs of agitation lingering longer than expected, it’s best to talk to them one on one. On the flip side, be sensitive to students who don’t use it ever. They may also need someone to be with them in there for comfort.
The Quiet Zone Set-up
There has to be a distinct corner for your quiet zone, so children will feel that they’re ‘entering’ a space that requires a mode of thinking and behavior different from the rest of your classroom. One way you can achieve this is by painting that corner with cool, calm colours, like blues and greens. Add comfortable furniture too, like beanbags, pillows, and large mats. It’s also important to have good classroom storage, as you will be storing a lot of stuff, mostly comfort objects. Soft toys are one, so include teddy bears and dolls in your cabinets. Put some stress balls and pipe cleaners as well to help in easing negative emotions. Place small puzzles too, as these can bring them back to focus and clear thinking. Of course, the good old coloring materials are necessary. Art can be therapeutic for some kids, letting them express emotions through sketches and drawings.
Again, emotional intelligence is a strong predictor to better academic performance. If you want your students to achieve success, perhaps you should start in the quiet zone.